DEAR COUNSELLOR: Teens & parent separation

Kareem LaTouche, Youthlink Coordinator

Dear Counsellor,
I am a 15-year-old youth and my world is falling apart. I board away from home, and recently on my midterm visit, I learnt that my father moved out of our home and is now living in a nearby community with his girlfriend. I am devastated. I am angry, numb, not interested in school, and I have been experimenting with marijuana. My mother is crying all the time, and is having difficulty in finding money to support the family. I want my father to come back home.
Yours truly, K.W.

Dear K.W.,
Grief is personal and what you are experiencing is typical of someone who has suffered a loss. The fact that your parents have separated, unknown to you, would provide that element of shock, anger and numbness. This represents to you a loss that is unexpected, and the pain is real.

What does this separation mean to you? Identifying your main concerns will help you to process the grief you are experiencing. Are you concerned about the (changed) relationships within the family? Does the separation mean that your parents love you any less? How will the ‘family’ manage financially? What is the community’s response? How will your friends react?

In dealing with this grief in a healthy way, you ought to, at some point, come to accept the reality of the situation. Usually, when parents separate, children yearn for them to get back together. However, from your letter I see where your father has moved on; a reality that you and your mother will have to come to terms with. As much as persons want relationships to last forever, relationships grow and change – some in our favour, others not as much.

Your experimenting with marijuana is of concern to me. It suggests that your choice of coping can only be escalated and this is neither helpful nor healthy. I am sure that there are questions that you may need to ask of either parent. I suggest that you ask these questions.

Using marijuana as a means of coping with grief will not improve your situation; it will create other issues. Please speak with your guidance counsellor. It is my hope that you and your father will maintain a healthy relationship that includes your continued emotional and financial support. Your mother may need to speak with a counsellor to help her process her loss, as well as learn new ways of managing the changes in her life.

Take some time to allow yourself to process this loss, experience all the associated emotions, and use the services of a counsellor to assist you through this process.
Best wishes.

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